Statement of Record

A Reformed Santa Claus, 1911

A

̶  With Charles Kent, Helen Gardner and Dolores Costello

“It is the day before Christmas. The employees of Harrison’s Mine have been out on strike for a long time.”*

HG: I finally get to make a film with a social message. The immigrants at the nickelodeons will love it. But the fat capitalists? I don’t think so.

A slender grey-haired man sits at an oak desk in a big living room with tall windows and velvet drapes. A little girl with a huge bow in her hair comes to the desk and tries to get his attention.

He waves her away. She persists. He calls a maid.

Intertitle: BUY ALICIA WHAT SHE WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS AND DON’T BOTHER ME.

*     *     *

A young woman in a white shirtwaist and long black skirt sits at a sewing machine in a tiny room. A small boy and smaller girl watch her with unhappy expressions.

Intertitle: Why doesn’t Santa Claus come to our house?

The woman looks sad.

Intertitle: THE DRESSMAKER PROMISES THAT SANTA CLAUS WILL VISIT THEM.

She opens a small purse, takes out its one coin, puts on a hat and shawl and leaves.

HG: I hate playing the mother. No chance to play the vamp. I don’t like being a real mother, but I hope my mother takes better care of my

Hèléne at our family home in Bridgeport. I can’t believe she’s eight. I didn’t plan to get pregnant and tried to abort her but it didn’t work.

*     *     *

The grey-haired man sits at a roll top desk in a plain office. A male secretary comes in and hands him a letter. He pushes it away, the secretary pushes it back, he reads it.

 

John Harrison, Mine Owner

Sir:

In order to terminate the 6 months’ strike, the miners have agreed to arbitrate. Will you hear their proposals?

The Committee: Joe Hanson, Tom O’Hara

 

Harrison stands to leave. His secretary tries to keep him in the office. He takes his top hat off a peg and opens the door.

*     *     *

He stands outside his office and shakes his head no. Fifty male extras in work clothes and caps shake their fists, pickaxes and sledgehammers. He walks down the steps and the crowd splits around him. The strikers and the boss are silent. He argues with the empty-handed last man in line. The crowd breaks, he runs. They chase and throw rocks at him.

HG: I’ve been cheering for the workers on strike in Chicago and Pennsylvania. Women garment workers in Chicago and 15,000 men from 65 plus mines, 16 killed, in Pennsylvania. I hope I never have to strike but I sympathize.  

*     *     *

Harrison climbs the steps to a small house where he knocks hard on the door. The dressmaker opens it. He walks into the living room with her, her two children look up at him. A scrawny Christmas tree with tacky garlands in the background. She offers him a Santa suit as a disguise. He returns wearing the suit. He lifts two presents and gives the little girl a small doll, the boy a pair of boxing gloves as he mimes a round.

Three strikers barge in and recognize Harrison in the Santa suit. The dressmaker clasps her hands and pleads.

Intertitle: THE CHILDREN’S FAITH IN SANTA CLAUS MUST NOT BE DESTROYED!

HG: How saccharine can you get?

The strikers exit the scene.

*     *     *

Harrison enters a bedroom with a brass bedstead and oak dresser with mirror. He takes off his Santa hat, beard, Santa jacket and rolls them up. He takes a bill from his pocket, sticks it in the roll and tucks it under a pillow.

HG: I don’t know why Vitagraph made this scene so long. They didn’t make any long scenes like this with me, probably because long scenes like this are obviously too boring and I’m too amazing.

*     *     *

Intertitle: A CHANGE OF HEART.

Back in the living room with the high windows and satin drapes, Harrison looks dejected.

Intertitle: A PLAN.

*     *     *

Harrison, now in business suit, is outside the door of his office and tells the strikers they can go to back to work the day after Christmas.

Intertitle: BACK PAY – AND MORE MONEY.

Arms in the air, the crowd gives three cheers: Hip, Hip, Hooray.

*     *     *

Harrison has a Eureka moment in his living room. He picks up the phone to order a huge decorated Christmas tree.

The dressmaker and her children enter. Harrison dressed as “Santa” hands out gifts. The dressmaker weeps.

Intertitle: MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Intertitle: ALICIA’S SANTA CLAUS.

HG: Little Hèléne misses me horribly but I have to do this. She cries when I’m away making films and writes me sad notes. I’ll bring her a lot of presents when I go home for Christmas. A baby doll, a doll house with furniture, picture books.

Then I leave again.  

 

*“A Reformed Santa Claus,” The Supplement to Bioscope, December 19, 1912, p. vi.

About the author

Dorin Schumacher’s 2017 writing includes Brooklyn RailAt LargeFjords Review and Quiet Lunch. Her writing on silent film star Helen Gardner appears in Women Screenwriters (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), the Encyclopedia of Early Cinema (Routledge, 2010), This Film is Dangerous and many other anthologies and publications. Her personal writing appears in The New York Times and Stonepile Writers Anthology (University of North Georgia Press, 2014), alongside numerous other publications. Her first book Gatsby’s Child, a memoir, will appear from Belle Books. Her website is www.beacontowers.media

Statement of Record